Some years after I first came to Canada in 1962, the country changed from using the Imperial system of measures – pounds, gallons, miles – to the metric system – grams, liters, and kilometers. As you can imagine, there was lots of grumbling from older people, with one or two garages defying the law and refusing to change. Then, some years later, with a new party in power, a move was made to switch back to the Imperial system.
It couldn’t be done. No one under 20 had the slightest idea what was being talked about. And when they learned, they recoiled with horror. Sixteen ounces in a pound, 14 pounds in a stone, and gosh knows what number of stone in a hundredweight. Certainly not 10. The move was quietly dropped and Canada measures things in the sensible way, like the rest of the world, with one notable exception.
History repeats itself. For me, the most striking part of the president’s announcement that he was now in favor of gay marriage was the bit about the influence of his daughters. As far as they were concerned, it was a non-issue. They had friends who had same sex parents and that was it as far as they were concerned. It was perfectly normal and natural and no more important than that one child has doctors as parents and another has school teachers.
I grew up in the 1950s in England. It was an issue then, with male homosexuals if caught having sex being sent to prison. With reason, the law was known as the “blackmailer’s charter,” and god help a man who spent too much time hanging around a public lavatory. The News of the World, the Sunday newspaper notorious for salacious gossip long before Rupert Murdoch got his hands on it, made a specialty of actors and vicars and politicians caught in the bushes of local parks.
We Quakers were liberals and reformers. We thought it wrong to persecute gays (not a term we used back then). “There but for the grace of God go I.” It was after all a sickness and you don’t prosecute people for being sick. In any case, sending a gay man to prison is, as we were wont to say, like sending a drunkard to a brewery.
For me, as for society (I lived first in England and then for many years in Canada, and then more recently in America), it has been a long process of evolution. Slowly but surely the laws were lifted and as slowly but surely people like me have come to realize that gays and lesbians are as morally and mentally healthy as anyone else – a lot more so than many straights. Also there came the realization that gays are not sexual predators.
My best friend was gay as is my oldest son. Two more decent and lovable human beings it would be hard to find. The children of my second marriage grew up knowing and loving their older brother, fully aware of his sexual orientation. As for President Obama’s children, it simply isn’t an issue and gay marriage certainly isn’t a moral issue.
In many states (including Florida, where I live) it is still very much a moral issue. It is apparently also a major moral issue for the presumed candidate of the Republican Party for the presidency this fall. I wish it weren’t. But whoever does win and however many states pass laws banning gay marriage, I am confident that youth is on the side of doing the right thing. I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime, but the day will come in America when loving people of all sexual orientations will be able to turn to their partner and say, as I did nearly 30 years ago to my beloved Lizzie: “I love you. Will you marry me?”Return to Top